When Does Love Start to Expire?

According to a new study, it’s not year seven of a relationship you have to worry about — it’s the three-year mark.

A recent article by Salon.com, “Does love have an expiration date?” by Tracy Clark-Flory, explores the findings of a survey with sociologist and researcher Kelly Musick.

Why do so many relationships decline in quality when they hit the “three-year glitch”?

Musick explains there is a “honeymoon affect” and the biggest happiness/health boosts a relationship provides happen early on and dissipate over time.

Lots of different things can take their toll. Children, for example, can be a major disruption and can have a very negative impact on relationship quality. The reality of living with someone day-to-day, trying to balance two careers while making sure household duties are divided somewhat equitably and finding time for in-laws, can also suck the romance and euphoria out of a partnership. What’s more, the lustre naturally wears off the early sheen of love — you start to realize your partner does some pretty weird stuff once he/she gets super comfortable with you (he might have hid his propensity to hide cereal bowls under the couch in the first few years, but now who’s he trying to impress?).

Says Musick: “We find intimate relationships, whether marriage or cohabitation, tend to improve well-being, although not always for long and not for everyone. We conclude marriage is certainly relevant for individual well-being, but it is not a blanket prescription for happiness.”

Of course, these findings don’t mean all relationships are doomed to fall apart when they hit the three-year mark. Some couples handle the transition well, figuring out how to navigate the daily drudgery as allies even though the days of wine and roses are, to a certain extent, behind them. Other couples won’t be able to cut it, realizing their relationship may have worked on a beach in Los Cabos, but can’t cut the realities of dirty dishes and socks in bed.

Despite a largely female tendency to try to prolong and make the best of even the most tenuous of romantic connections — it makes sense not every couple is equipped to make each other happy for 50 years.

Maybe having three great years together should be considered a success in its own right.

Author by Sarah Treleaven

A Review by the Editor:

I was intrigued by the title of your article and decided to take the time to read it. Your piece has many elements that touch on valid stresses that relationships, between men and women, are bound to endure. Some of these stresses certainly do test the strength of the relationship and/or marriage.

The part that I find truly troubling and in fact insulting Sarah, is that you put the male in bad light as the potential culprit in the relationship and women without fault. You assert, “(he might have hid his propensity to hide cereal bowls under the couch in the first few years, but now who’s he trying to impress?)” Siting a rather distasteful and unlikely scenario that HE would hide dishes under the couch.

Given that over 50% of relationships end in divorce and that divorce is initiated by women some 80% of the time. It stands to reason we might find many other much more serious reasons why love fizzles out. Both men and women must work hard at accepting each others naturally inherent differences. Certainly, life is not just about a honeymoon, there is a lot more hard work to be expected. An aspect which is often grossly underestimated in a relationship.

In light of the aforementioned, the three year glitch can reasonably be attributed to women respectively who appear to be the ones to cause and be responsible with the most severe relationship breakdowns. That is divorce, which one might construe to be the opposite of love similar to indifference, but much more traumatic, especially if there are children involved.

It appears Sarah, that you might be hiding your propensity of harboring negative sentiments about men. My sentiments echo the reality of what is going on within families and relationships having a better than 50% chance of failure.